Published January 23, 2018
"I want to see more women in engineering, and I hope that our leadership roles encourage more women to feel like that invisible barrier that is ever-present in the STEM majors will be just a little bit less daunting," said Margaret Donnelly, president of UB's Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers student chapter.
Step into a room with Donnelly and her roommates Madeleine Dewey, Jenna Dombroski and Colleen Mroz. Their warmth, energy and enthusiasm is palpable. Each is intelligent and extraordinary in her own way — and they each now stand at the helm of a vital UB Student Association Engineering Council club.
In addition to Donnelly's leadership of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), Dewey serves as president of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW), Dombroski as president of the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and Mroz as president of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).
The important roles that these four leaders hold challenge engineering stereotypes; women represent less than 20% of all engineering Bachelor's degrees awarded per year, yet four of the larger engineering clubs on campus are run by women.
While they hold powerful positions, Donnelly, Dewey, Dombroski, and Mroz admit that they had to step out of their comfort zones to get to where they are. They offer a little bit about their personal journeys, how their engagement with clubs was a meaningful step into university life, and how important they have been to each other along the way.
“When I joined IEEE freshman year,” Donnelly said, “I felt like the group really welcomed me and took me in. After I attended a conference, I realized I could take action on my ideas and run for a leadership position. I credit my friends for helping me grow by encouraging me to do things I normally wouldn’t do or think to do. By pushing me, they helped me realize the person I can be.”
For Dewey, the mission and culture of the Engineers for a Sustainable World proved a perfect fit. There, she discovered a family and her passion. Now a senior in environmental engineering, she works to foster a culture of community and sustainability in her role as president.
Dewey credits her roommates with inspiring her leadership. “Each successive year has been a stepping stone, building on a variety of opportunities,” she said. “These guys have been incredible friends and people to bounce ideas off of. We all have different strengths that compliment each other and we push each other in so many ways.”
Dombroski recalls feeling hesitant to talk with the other members of BMES when she was the only freshman during her first year in the club. But, with each year, gained confidence, so that “by the time junior year came around, I fell in love with the Biomedical Engineering Society because it was like family and I felt passionate about its potential. Even though I’m introverted, I cared too much to just sit back. I couldn’t have done it without Colleen, Madeleine, and Maggie, who have experienced all of the ups and downs with me.”
Mroz, a chemical and biological engineering senior, reflects upon her initial connection with the Society of Women Engineers: “When I started getting involved with SWE freshman year, I thought ‘this is good, I don’t need to go any further.’ Finding something I was passionate about — working with amazing high school girls with Tinker, was huge in building my confidence. When I realized I wanted to help make changes in the club, with the forceful encouragement of my friends, even though I was kind of terrified, I discovered I had the power to lead. Plus, I have three presidents who have my back to help me when I’m lost. It's incredibly supportive and humbling to live with these people."
Together, this impressive group of women has given their all to UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Their work with their individual clubs has had a synergistic effect. They share the struggles and strengths of their club’s experiences and gain perspective from one another.
Furthermore, the leadership of Donnelly, Dewey, Dombroski and Mroz is an important step for the UB community -- setting the tone for women interested in engineering to go after their dreams -- fearlessly, unapologetically, and together.
The Engineering Council consists of clubs focused on the many different facets of the engineering field and allows students to gain hands on experience of the material they learn in the classroom. In addition to networking with professors and professionals, engineering clubs actively carry out research projects, conduct valuable experiments and compete in competitions throughout the nation. Many of the Student Association Engineering clubs are national recognized and work closely with national societies. Most notably, the Engineering Council annually participates in the National Engineering Week in February in which each club competes in events such as Battle Bots and more.